Updated on March 8, 2011 at 6:27PM
Ohio State has suspended football coach Jim Tressel two games and fined him $250,000 for violating NCAA rules.
Tressel also will receive a public reprimand and must make a public apology.
Ohio State says in a release that it submitted a report to the NCAA that Tressel “violated provisions of NCAA Bylaw 10.1 when he failed to notify the university about information received involving two football student-athletes.”
Ohio State says it “became aware of this situation on Jan. 13, while reviewing information on an unrelated legal issue.”
Yahoo! Sports reported Monday that Tressel knew of allegations of improper benefits to Pryor and five other players as early as April 2010 – at least seven months before the university found out from a U.S. Attorney.
Smith is the chairman of the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball committee which selects, seeds and brackets the teams for the NCAA tournament. He came back from meetings in New York to address the brewing controversy involving Tressel, who is 106-22 in his 10 years as coach of the Buckeyes.
Smith was scheduled to meet with television network officials on Tuesday morning, then fly to Indiana for a dinner with the other members of his NCAA committee. The 10-person committee will then be sequestered from Wednesday through Sunday afternoon before announcing the tournament brackets.
The news conference, set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday night at the Jack Nicklaus Museum on the Ohio State campus, includes Tressel, Smith and Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee.
“We have reported a violation, a perceived violation, that we were having discussions with them (the NCAA) about the best way to handle it,” Gee told The Associated Press while at the statehouse for the governor’s State of the State speech. “We reported that immediately when we found it.”
He said he could not comment further.
The 58-year-old Tressel’s contract, which pays him an estimated $3.5 million per season, requires that he report any – the word “any” is underlined in the contract – possible rules or legal infractions immediately.
Pryor, the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback for the past three years and considered a top contender for this fall’s Heisman Trophy, was only one of the big-time players who admitted their mistake. Pryor was suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season along with starting tailback Dan “Boom” Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. All were starters last season except Thomas, but he was the star of the Buckeyes’ victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl when he intercepted a pass late in the game to preserve a 31-26 victory. Another player admitted to lesser violations and will serve a shorter suspension.
On his Twitter account, Pryor posted a message early Tuesday morning: “THE Ohio State Buckeyes face and overcome any adversity that comes our way! Brings us closer together As a team. And brings us closer 2 GOD”
Offensive lineman posted the following message on Twitter: “We don’t run scared during hard times…Buckeyes Handle Adversity Together … SACREDBROTHERHOOD”
The NCAA, prodded by Ohio State officials and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney, allowed the players to participate in the Sugar Bowl – putting off their suspensions until the start of the 2011 season.
Tressel is currently appearing at signings around Columbus for his new book, “Life Promises for Success: Promises from God on achieving your best.” His website calls the book “a collection of inspiring readings and Bible promises designed to encourage those seeking to succeed in every area of life.” He has also written a book on faith and football called, “The Winners Manual.”
A book signing on Tuesday night at a local store was canceled after the news conference was announced.
Tressel signed his most recent Ohio State contract, appended three times since, on Nov. 2, 2009.
Under section 4.1d of that contract, Tressel is bound to report any possible violation of Big Ten or NCAA bylaws immediately.
That portion of the contract states that the coach shall “Know, recognize and comply with all federal, state and local laws, as well as all applicable policies, rules and regulations of Ohio State, and governing athletic rules, including but not limited to, the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA …”
It later continues, in the event that the coach learns of a potential infraction, “… and immediately report to the (athletic) Director and to the Department’s Office of Compliance Services in writing if any (underlined in the contract) person or entity, including without limitation, representatives of Ohio State’s athletic interests, has violated or is likely to violate any such laws, policies, rules or regulations.”
There were reports of high-level meetings within the athletic department on Tuesday morning. Smith’s commitment with the NCAA committee just added to the tension.
Despite all of his success and his glowing public persona, Tressel hasn’t always been cast in a good light. During 15 years as the coach at Division I-AA Youngstown State, one of his most talented players, quarterback Ray Isaac, was accused of accepting improper benefits including cars from boosters. Years later, the university admitted to the infractions and faced minor penalties.
The player who would lead Ohio State to its first national championship in 34 years, tailback Maurice Clarett, also involved Tressel in some NCAA problems. After the Buckeyes completed a 14-0 season by beating Miami 31-24 in double-overtime in the 2002 season national championship game, Clarett was suspended for receiving improper benefits from Buckeyes boosters. He never played another collegiate game. Clarett also accused the university of academic fraud in its dealings with athletes’ academics.
Troy Smith, Tressel’s quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in 2006, was suspended for the Alamo Bowl at the end of the 2004 season and for the first two games of the 2005 season for taking money from a booster.
Like most major programs, Ohio State has also had to deal with arrests for drugs, pandering, drunken driving, assault and disorderly conduct over the years. There have also been numerous minor NCAA violations.
In May of 2009, The Columbus Dispatch reported that since 2000, Ohio State had reported to the NCAA more than 375 violations – the most of any of the 69 Football Bowl Subdivision schools that provided documents to the newspaper through public-records requests. Most of the infractions were minor and resulted in little or no punishment.
Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report.
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